As a Southern California native, I visited Disneyland many times growing up and always had a blast, whether I was with my friends of my family. I took many years off of visiting the park, but recently started going again and picked up an annual pass so that I could take my time enjoying all that the Disneyland parks have to offer. I spent a day this week in Disney’s California Adventure to try out some of their new Lunar New Year Food options.
One of my favorite things about Disney California Adventure is that they have a number of food events throughout the year. These food carts – called marketplaces, although you can think of them a bit like food trucks within the park – offer something different than your average theme park fare, often with a gourmet twist (and a Disney twist, of course). The Lunar New Year event (from January 25 – February 19th) offers an array of Asian-inspired foods to try. I picked up a Sip & Savor Pass – which gives you a discounted way to sample six different offerings from each of four food carts and one restaurant – and got to eating.
I started with something sweet, the Purple Yam Macaron with Creme Fraiche, from the Red Dragon Spice Traders. This giant macaron had a picture-perfect shell and a mildly sweet yam filling that surrounded a disc of creme fraiche. That creme fraiche took this macaron over-the-top, lightening up the filling and giving the whole dessert a subtle cheesecake-like tang.
From the same marketplace, I also opted to try the Steamed Short Rib Shumai, which were melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Each serving was two shumai, but I could easily have eaten my way through a few more if I hadn’t been saving room for other treats.
From there, I moved on to Prosperity Bao & Buns for a Char Siu Pork Bao. I’m always a big fan of fluffy bao buns and these were fresh and tender. The pork had a good flavor and was generously piled into the bun, but I felt like I could have used a bit of heat to take this dish to the next level.
I also opted for the Mickey Chinese Hot Dog Bun, which is almost exactly what it sounds like: hot dogs in a Mickey Mouse-shaped bun. This one looked fantastic and the bun, which had a hint of green onion to it, was pretty darn tasty on its own. That said, the whole thing didn’t really work for me. It felt like it needed condiments – either ketchup/mustard to push it towards a hot dog or mustard/salt to push it towards a bagel dog – and was a bit boring on its own. It was, however, one of the most fun to photograph treats of the bunch!
My final savory option was the Bahn Bi from the Paradise Garden Grill. This was easily the most substantial savory item of the day and it was a good one. The sandwich is made with thin slices of grilled pork belly, topped with pickled daikon, carrots, cucumber, jalapeno, cliantro and spicy mayo. It is served on a crisp, light baguette. The pork basically melts in your mouth and the baguette is the perfect delivery system for the combination of flavors. If you only try one savory, make it this one.
I also tried the Mango Mousse from the Paradise Garden Grill. This elegant dessert was bursting with fresh mango flavor, accented with a hint of zesty passion fruit. I’ve tried many mango mousses and this one was a true standout that I would enjoy eating anywhere.
My final dessert was the Mandarin Orange Green Tea Tart from Lucky 8 Lantern. This dessert far exceeded my expectations and I loved it. It had a green tea shortbread tart crust that was filled with layers of orange curd and pastry cream.
It was topped with a very light glaze, mandarin slices and fresh raspberries, along with a dusting of gold leaf. The mandarin orange worked incredibly well with the rich pastry cream, and the tart crust held up beautifully. It may look cute in a picture, but the flavor is what makes this one my top pick of the whole festival menu.
Of course, there are a number of options that I didn’t get to try on the menu that might jump out at you if you happen to visit the park during the Lunar New Year Festival and it’s that variety that makes this a fun foodie event. The marketplaces also have both alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, along with plenty of vegetarian options for non meat eaters. Obviously, I recommend that you opt for at least one of the desserts. The Sip & Savor Pass is $39 and all the items are available a la carte, as well.